I took my mum to The Playhouse last night to see ‘Annie get Your Gun’. She remembers seeing Howard Keel in the film when it first came out in 1950, a bit before I was born, but the musical is still a lot of fun with a clutch of memorable songs. (Did Irving Berlin write anything that was less than memorable?)
The role of Frank Butler was played last night by Jason Donovan and he does an adequate job but lacks the big voice and swagger this role demands, or maybe like my mum, I can’t see past Howard Keel! Donovan may be the ‘star’ name to draw in a crowd, but the star of this production by a Wild West country mile was Emma Williams as Annie Oakley. This talented woman delivered a faultless performance, both acting and singing everyone else off the stage. She captured the unaffected, bluntness of Annie and handled the comedic aspect of the role with an assured touch.
Annie is a crack shot, straight from the backwoods and the local hotelier enters her into a shooting competition against Frank Butler, the star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. While she’s waiting for the competition to start, Annie meets and falls head over heels for Frank, not knowing who he is. When Annie wins the sharpshooting competition Buffalo Bill (played by Norman Pace of the Hale and Pace comedy duo) invites Annie to join the show. Frank is smitten by the unaffected Annie and asks her to marry him. However she soon out-shoots Frank, who is hurt and takes his damaged male pride off to join the opposition.
The story follows the on-off romance between the two as their respective companies fall on hard times. A proposed merger of the two companies brings Annie and Frank back together and in order to get her man, Annie allows Frank to win a return shooting match. Frank realises what she is doing, manipulates a draw and the pair sing the duet ‘An Old Fashioned Wedding’.
Other musical numbers include, ‘There’s no Business Like Show Business’, ‘Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly’, ‘The Girl That I Marry’,’ ‘You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun’ and ‘Anything You Can Do’ in which Emma Williams holds her note for so long it doesn’t seem possible! The choreography and dancing deserve mention, particularly the male dancers who were very good. The band is on stage throughout this production which I thought worked well and was appropriate to the setting of the Show tent.
I hope Jason Donovan’s male pride isn’t damaged by the outstanding performance of Emma Williams!